Govt to launch new round of relief fund for virus-hit businesses

March 30, 2020 15:16
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Executive Council member Tommy Cheung (next to Lam).visit a Chinese restaurant in Quarry Bay on Sunday to inspect compliance with the new regulations. Photo: ISD

The government is preparing to roll out the second round of a relief fund to help businesses cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said.

In his weekly blog on Sunday, Cheung said he understands the measures the government has taken to contain the spread of Covid-19 have severely affected the business operations of certain establishments and the livelihood of their employees.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday unveiled measures aimed at further reducing social contacts in order to curb the transmission of the coronavirus in the community.

The measures include banning people to assemble in groups of more than four in public from Sunday and ordering certain establishments where people gather to suspend operations.

Among those affected are six types of venues: amusement game centers, bathhouses, fitness centers, places of amusement (billiard halls, bowling alleys and ice skating rinks), places of public entertainment (movie theaters) and premises hired for social gatherings (party rooms).

Cheung said various sectors have suffered in the past month or so since the government kicked off a HK$30 billion anti-epidemic fund in late February, and as such, another round of funding must be launched to help them get through the difficult times.

The administration will seek approval for the funding from the Legislative Council's Finance Committee soon after it has formulated the appropriate proposals, he added.

Also on Sunday, the chief executive visited a Chinese restaurant and another eatery in Quarry Bay to monitor the implementation of the latest measures to promote social distancing, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Lam was accompanied by Executive Council member and Liberal Party lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who represents the catering sector, in the inspection.

Under the rules, which took effect at 6 p.m. on Saturday, restaurants can only operate at half of their normal seating capacity, with no more than four persons sitting at each table and the tables set at a distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other.

Lam called on “every member of the public to put up with the inconvenience in their daily lives, go out less often and maintain personal hygiene to win this battle against the disease for ourselves, and for Hong Kong”.

Police and personnel from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) on Saturday night started inspecting eateries and bars in several places, including Tsim Sha Tsui and Prince Edward, to see if the establishments were strictly following the new rules.

During the inspections, it was observed that the police and FEHD personnel outnumbered the customers in the venues.

Data from the FEHD showed that more than 3,200 such venues were inspected from Saturday evening to Sunday night, and about 280 instructions were given to operators to improve their compliance with the new rules.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said although many operators complained that their businesses would suffer as a result of the new rules, they were generally willing to cooperate for the sake of containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Chan said authorities will review the situation before deciding whether to extend the two-week duration of the new measures or make them more stringent.

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